2018 in Reading: January – March

The year started with a couple of winners and at least one unfortunate loser. I’m a big fan of John Hodgman’s incredible trio of fake almanacs, so I was excited about “Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches.” Hodgman is a master of the kind of melancholy humor that scratches my itch, and “Vacationland” is a funny and sad little book about a vacation home in Maine, family, performing live and buying a boat. He is responsible for one of my absolute favorite TED Talks, and if you like that, you’ll like this book.

Dan Brown’s “Inferno” is Dan Brown at his Dan Browniest. It’s absolutely absurd, with a ludicrous plot and wafer-thin characters, but with Brown you know what you’re getting. It’s difficult to put down, which qualifies it as a page-turner. It’s hard to take seriously, but if you find yourself sitting next to a pool, you could do worse.

Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” is already out-of-date, but it’s impact was definitely felt throughout the year. Wolff, who clearly spent a lot of time interviewing Steve Bannon, gives an insider’s view of the Trump White House, though he has a tendency to play fast and loose with sourcing. It’s an important book, and an easy read, but it has a short shelf-life just because of the nature of the topic. If you’re looking for juicy Trump dirt, you’ve probably already read it.

What to say about Andy Weir’s “Artemis”? Truly one of the most disappointing books I think I’ve ever read. Nothing against Weir, who wrote the absolutely fantastic The Martian, but Artemis just doesn’t work. Ostensibly a murder mystery set on the moon, it’s full of characters that don’t work, a clunky plot, a main character who is intensely difficult to like and a clunkiness that makes the whole affair feel rushed and unfinished. Maybe it’s just a sophomore slump. I’ve read “The Martian” four times, so I’m totally going to read Weir’s next book on day-one, but “Artemis” just doesn’t work. At all.

Last in this timeframe was Dan Moody’s “Hotels of North America,” a peculiar, funny series of modern male adulthood told through a series of fake Yelp-style reviews of American hotels. This book was right in my wheelhouse, with a nonlinear story told through fragments of experience framed through the aforementioned reviews. It’s genuinely hilarious, sometime cringe-inducing, and completely original. Loved it.

First Draft is in the book(s)!

I’ve been deficient in keeping the blog up to date through 2018, but, happily, I’ve been able to complete was is almost certainly my most critical goal for the year: I finished a first draft of my novel! It needs a lot of work, but I’m going to have a second draft completed by Thanksgiving, if not sooner.

I’d really like to have it polished up by the end of 2018 and… then I don’t know exactly. Send out some query letters, maybe self-publish? I’m not quite there yet but it’s been many, many hours of work. It’s a struggle right now because all I can see are the flaws, but I’m hoping there’s some fruit inside the rind.

Two Books: Vacationland and Inferno

Highly recommended!

I’ve read my first two books of the new year, both very different. John Hodgman’s (@hodgman) “Vacationland” is a funny, smart and melancholy rumination on adulthood, childhood and special places that define our lives. I envy him deeply as a writer.

Second book, which I just finished a few minutes ago, is Dan Brown’s “Inferno.” It’s absurdly goofy, but I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit to spending three hours of my Sunday burning through the second half. As guilty pleasures go, you could do worse, but if you’ve read “The Da Vinci Code,” you pretty much know what you’re getting here. It’s fine, but it’s seriously ridiculous.

Next up is finishing Michael Wolff’s “Fire and Fury.”

Kneel Before Zod archived podcasts

The Kneel Before Zod podcast (which I have a goal to resume in some form in 2018) ran for a few months in late 2016 into early 2017. My co-conspirator, Adam, and I had fun but lost the thread. I have archived the old episodes below since SoundCloud deactivates your older episodes when you stop paying them. If you’re made uncomfortable by the fact that the episode naming convention went awry in episode 9, this is a good chance to work on that.